November 26, 2014

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Doug Clark: Sports, life better when there was Ozark Ike to like

Just becuz nobody asked, here are my Ozark Ike Awards for 2007 …
Background: For you young ’uns, “Ozark Ike” was a comic strip hero during the 1940s and ’50s. Ike was a man for all seasons, the last of a breed — the kind we don’t see any more. What Ike did in Yesteryear you can’t do today — play sports according to the season.
Ol’ Ike, called Ozark becuz he was, well … from the Ozark Mountains in Missouri … played football in autumn, basketball in winter and baseball in spring and summer.
Athletes today can’t do that ’cuz coaches don’t like “their” players participating in other sports.
“Pick one,” coaches say, “ … and only one.”
Naturally, Ozark Ike was the star of his team in all three sports. He had very blond hair (lots of it … big wave in front) and he played football without a helmet and baseball without a cap. This was to signify that Ike was a country boy.
Even though he was from the Ozarks, Ike did wear shoes: hightops for football and regular cleats for baseball.
In football, Ike was always stiff-arming an opponent on his way to a 60-yard touchdown run, his hair blowing in the autumn air. In baseball, Ike would regularly sock 50-60 home runs — the ball soaring out of both the ballpark and the comic strip at you with a T-H-O-C-K sound.
Ike never missed his pitch.
In basketball, Ike was seen throwing in impossible half-court hook shots, the ball splitting the twine with a S-W-I-S-H sound. Ike playing basketball was fairly ridiculous and I drew the line at that, opting instead for “Mary Worth” or “Rex Morgan, M.D.” over the winter months. (Honest.)
Fortunately, the creator of “Ozark Ike” contained the basketball season within reasonable boundaries. Ike had to be content with flipping in those crazy hook shots for just January, February and March. You know, the only months basketball should be played.
Even at that, Ike knew that come March he had better high-tail it down to spring training.
This is how most of us grew up. We were sensible. And adaptable. We played sports according to the season.
Of course, this was before TiVos and computers and malls and MTV and Game Boys and BlackBerrys and cell phones and forced marches to soccer camp so mom could keep track of you while she sipped latte at Starbucks.
We played ball in backyards … in front yards … in the street … at the playground. And had fun doing it.
Why? Becuz there were no parents around to muck things up, showing us their stinking badges. We weren’t constantly tethered to them, either electronically or psychologically.
(Note: All of you waiting for the actual Ozark Ike Awards, just hold your horses. We’ll get to them when we get there and not a minute before.)
And another thing about this playing in the yard or in the street business. We didn’t worry about a kid getting kidnapped or molested. You know why? Because there were such things as neighborhoods, neighbors and sidewalks. Everyone watched everyone else. Was the actual “It takes a village …” concept at work.
Think about it: If you were a bad guy who wanted to kidnap or molest a kid, are you going to venture onto a street where the houses are reasonably close together, everyone has a front porch and kids are always seen playing in yards or in the street?
Of course not. You’d probably want to skulk around some area where overlarge houses occupy treeless chunks of property … where sidewalks are anathema … and where there are desperately high palladium windows through which the occupants of the house would need a ladder from Engine Company No. 79 to see out of.
But, hey, you go live where you think the world can’t touch you — except by text message.
Was a different time, all right. At night we read actual books. If a kid tried doing that today the parents would think there was something abnormal about them. They’d probably say, “Shouldn’t you be in your room text-messaging your b.f.f or listening to Avril Lavigne or something?”
Me? I’d be on my tummy on the living room floor reading a Clair Bee book. Bee wrote the Chip Hilton series. Chip was like Ozark Ike in that he played sports according to what season it was — except he was in high school.
OK, where were we? Oh, yeah. The Ozark Ike Awards. We had better get to them, hadn’t we? Oh, my … woodja lookit the time. It certainly has gotten away from us, hasn’t it?
Well, here goes …
The Ozark Ike Awards
The Ozark Ike Outstanding Performance by a Hitter: Alex Rodriguez (AL) and Prince Fielder (NL).
Most Valuable Player: Vladimir Guerrero (AL) and Matt Holliday (NL).
Cy Young (Tie): Josh Beckett and John Lackey (AL) and Jose Valverde (NL).
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun (NL) and Delmon Young (AL).
Comeback Player of the Year: Rick Ankiel (NL) and Carlos Pena (AL).
Just A Plain Sweet Season by A Damn Good Ballplayer Trophy: Chipper Jones (NL) and Derek Jeter (AL).
The “Good Riddance” Trophy … to Barry Bonds
The Hard-Luck Club (Pitching Division) Trophy: C.C. Sabathia (AL) and Matt Cain (NL).
Manager of the Year: Manny Acta (NL) and Eric Wedge (AL).
Choke of The Year: Trophy being reserved for Willie Randolph and the Mets.
Question of The Year: How come when a player gets traded from one league to the other (Mark Teixeira) his HR and RBI totals are calculated separately in the box scores instead of en toto?
Contact Doug Clarke at ctsports@chroniclet.com.